VW Bus - Recommendations and Rationales?


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Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 31, 2011 - 11:38am PT
Great feedback, y'all. Thanks! And Ed...a few of those sites are new to me. Thanks for the links.
David Wilson

Dec 31, 2011 - 11:47am PT
mooser, we've had two eurovans. the first had no pop top and started having relatively costly mechanical problems ( in addition to the normal vw problem of all the small stuff breaking ) at 110k miles. we sold that one. unable to find what we though was a better body design, we bought another, this time with the pop top. the vehicle has had no significant issues and is now at 180k. it's been great. my recommendation is buy the eurovan with the pop top and pull out bed, but not the camper version that takes up too much space. my dad has an old synchro 4x4 vw van that he loves, but it drives like %%$ in comparison to ours without air bags and without power in hills. just my 2 cents

Sierra Ledge Rat

Social climber
Retired to Appalachia
Dec 31, 2011 - 02:44pm PT
I, too, feel incomplete without a VW bus.

I'll never forget passing a VW van near Crested Butte, Colorado, one cold winter's day. A few feet of snow on the ground, clear blue skies. As I passed the VW, I noticed that the driver was scraping the inside of the driver's door window with an ice scraper.

That was all it took to rid myself of those "VW bus" inadequacies.

Instead of a VW bus I got a 9,000-pound 4x4 conversion van with everything including the kitchen sink. And I stay warm. And I have a heater and defroster.

Dec 31, 2011 - 04:05pm PT
Mooser & other PNW VeeDubbers, have you ever checked out Wolfsburg Motorwerks (no website)? Any opinions on their work? It's our back-up solution for anything that can't be handled at home.

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 31, 2011 - 04:15pm PT
Thanks for the link, reddirt. I've heard of them, but I'm not personally familiar with them.
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Dec 31, 2011 - 04:32pm PT
The one thing I learned from having several VWs, including one van, is that preventive maintenance is really important. Maybe those German engineers take such things seriously, and a part designed to last a specified time or distance really will only do so. No plus or minus - that date/distance, on the nail.

Plus it helps to learn about self-repairs, as at least in older models, much is possible for the amateur with some time and tools, and probably now there's tons of information on the net about specific issues.

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Dec 31, 2011 - 05:17pm PT
Lars Holbek rebuilt a blown VW motor in the safeway parking lot near peavine ridge, wtf, over

Off White and I swapped out a blown engine in his '67 splitwindow (nicknamed Zardoz the Dragon Van, long story) with a rebuilt 1600cc. Summer of '78, SLC. Went there on a rumor that Warbler could supply work delivering phone books. Turned out the work was in Carmel/Monteray, but that's another story...

Did it by the side of the road using a carjack and a 2X4 to hoist the engine into place. Marginal tool kit, and an oldschool copy of this:

Climbing and tooling around the West in a VW bus was a blast. And '78 was one helluva year to be doing it. I should write a book.
Eric Beck

Sport climber
Bishop, California
Dec 31, 2011 - 05:46pm PT
I've blown up three of the old air cooled VWs each time on long grades in summer heat. The cooling system just isn't up to the demands of western summer driving. I'd even plan trips so that any long grades were done at night. Currently have a Toyota truck.
That said, the old VW had some very good qualities. They were easy to work on and parts were cheap. Don't know if this is still true about parts. Anyway, an idea for living with them, which I would like to claim as my own, is actually from Jon Storer, a sometime contributor here. The idea is to have two engines. Then, when something went wrong, swap the engines and fix the malfunctioning one at your leisure. Extracting an engine is about 20 minutes once you have it wired (helps greatly to have a floor jack).

Trad climber
crack addict
Jan 1, 2012 - 03:10pm PT
The 1978 was the best of the air cooled VW buses. It was the first year of an oversized crankshaft bearing journals, first year (I think) of a spin-on oil filter, last year without an O2 sensor. In 1979 they went to square port heads with an O2 sensor to meet emissions and they were never quite the same.

The 1986 waterboxer was the first year of the 2.1 motor. The 1986 version had a cam that gave the engine more low-end torque. In 1987 they went to a different cam that required higher rpm's to generate the whopping' horsepower that the engines produced.

The Eurovans are nice but they don't have the clearance that the waterboxers have and they seem smaller inside. Parts for the Eurovan's Audi motors are very expensive.....

I've had a '67 van, 78 Westy, 86 Westy and now have an '87 Westy (not to mention all the old bugs I've gone through). The older VW's seemed to know when I had extra money in my pocket and they insisted on utilizing it.

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 1, 2012 - 03:58pm PT
The older VW's seemed to know when I had extra money in my pocket and they insisted on utilizing it.

Favorite quote so far, mixed in with lots of great feedback. Thanks!

Eric: I like your two engine idea.
Phantom X

Trad climber
Honeycomb Hideout
Jan 1, 2012 - 11:51pm PT
Are you suggesting two big boned hippy chicks? An auxillery back-up big boned hippy chick?

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Jan 2, 2012 - 12:04am PT
I'd say that if they made that classic VW sound, yes!!

I've had a lot of VWs, and the classic sound which sticks in my memory is the sound those motors make when they swallow a valve.

In 1987 they went to a different cam that required higher rpm's to generate the whopping' horsepower that the engines produced.

The words "whopping horsepower" and VW Vanagon do not belong in the same sentence. Or perhaps you gest.

In 1979 they went to square port heads with an O2 sensor to meet emissions and they were never quite the same.

So you all old VW nuts actually don't like the idea that modern cars pollute much much much less than those old junkers? Get with the program. Drive a car, and pay the price for it, that doesn't f*ck up the air the rest of us have to breathe.

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 2, 2012 - 01:04am PT
I agree with Ksolem, so I actually put a 2001 1.9L TDI engine into a 1989 Westie... and it almost worked...

certainly getting 30mph was great, better than most of the cars you'd call "real"

the torque that engine put out was amazing, the Westie climbed hills, no problem, it was a favorite game of mine to watch the expression on someone driving a "modern" car being passed by what was commonly viewed as a "moving obstruction"

When moving at highway speeds, that is, over the speed limit 10 to 15 mph on the highway, I'd feel bad that I was only getting 28 mpg...

Problem was a 1989 Westie is still a 1989 Westie... a 22 year old car, with close to 250,000 miles on it, hard miles...

...but that was definitely the ticket if you're looking for a project... the engine would run pure biodiesel too, so basically you met the future CARB standards, and you had a classic vehicle that you could visit at your local mechanic with pride...

Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C.
Jan 2, 2012 - 01:31am PT
In 1979 they went to square port heads

Imagine, a VW involving squareheads. Whatever will they think of next?

Trad climber
Golden, Colorado
Jan 27, 2012 - 09:59pm PT
Shary McVoy and I traveled extensively in a '68. Somewhere I must have a pic of it in camp 4; gotta look. It would be remembered as we had a cool Sony cassette stereo (one of the first) and two wood speakers playing tunes from the times.

Early on, I always scrounged up a floor jack in order to remove the engine. Then I got wise and put and old tire (no rim) under it and just jerked back it and let it drop. No problem. two guys could lift the bus over the bumper, no problem.

It was said that you didn't drive a bus uphill but rowed it, keeping the rpm's optimal, listening to the engine sound (one got very good at that!) jumping out and tweaking the spark advance ever so little to find the optimum.

One time, on the way to Devil's Tower in Illinois, we pushed too hard into a west wind and melted a hole in a piston. No money and bummed. Some great folks (I wish I could reconnect!) with a tiny 2' x 2' shingle with "VW Repairs" took us in, let us use their garage, got us discount parts, and put us on the road again within our budget. They were beekeepers and gave us jars of honey for our
journey westward.
Never got up DT on that trip, however, as Shary was bitten by a rattler in the Badlands. Bad Luck/Good Luck cycles, doesn't it?

Thank you, Eric, for stirring my memory.

Trad climber
Jan 27, 2012 - 10:05pm PT
i got to where i could pull the engine in the 67 in minutes. right next to the fire road. or campsite. or surface street. or interstate. in snow. rain. hail. wind. hell heat. did all of them. regularly. in addition to constant preventive maintenance.

never again, not for me. though it looks cool when a fetishist pulls up in a cherry split windshield.

lots easier on yr back workin on motorcycles.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 27, 2012 - 10:09pm PT

Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Jan 27, 2012 - 10:32pm PT
on my 61 Bus/64 engine I installed an Engine Head temp gauge that could be switched between the 4 cylinders... my cross country driving behavior was to drive to the cylinder temp, slowing down to keep away from the max...

that worked amazingly well even if going up some mountain passes was down in slow motion

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Jan 27, 2012 - 10:50pm PT
Credit: guido

A friends backyard with the neighbors wifi
Jan 28, 2012 - 01:07pm PT
I'll sell you my '87 Weekender. It's in excellent shape. Lots of work done to it to bring it up to reliable and drive-able shape. It's a real gem.
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